Insan – Deepu Rajivan / 9 Mins
Nasrin – Anshad Jamaludheen / 15 Mins
Mujahir – Munir Ahmed / 20 Mins
Ira – Nimisha Rajesh / 15 Mins
Life of Ajnabi – Unnikrishnan Mattannur / 20 Mins
Journey Back – Sajeev Manthanam / 16 Mins
Safar – Santhosh Purakkattiri / 9 Mins

CS Venkiteswaran is a film critic and curator based in Thiruvananthapuram. He has published several books and articles in English and Malayalam and is a recipient of National and State award for film direction and criticism. He is also the Artistic Director of SiGNS documentary and short film festival organised by Federation of Film Societies of India.

Migrant Bodies, Native Hearts – Malayalee Stories from the Gulf

From time immemorial people have moved from one place to another due to natural or political calamities, or in search of better life and opportunities. It still remains a very sensitive political and economic issue, as is evident from the recent political developments in US, Britain and Europe, where one can see the specter of migrant populations haunting the powers-that-be. We are left with a clutch of questions without answers: Whom does land belong to? How long does one have to stay in a place to make it one’s homeland? How many generations make a land a native place? When capital and technology moves freely and are made to move freely across national boundaries, why not labour? The search for livelihood and survival has never respected boundaries. So, despite all these uneasy questions and embargos, people move about from places of distress to places of safety, lands of from poverty to that of opportunities, always in search of better and peaceful lives.

The case of Kerala has been no different.  There have been waves of migration from Kerala to different parts of the world. During the beginning of 20th century, many travelled to Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, Burma etc; the I and II World Wars drew many youngsters to join the British army to fight the colonial master’s battles in distant lands. In the 1970’s following the Gulf boom, thousands of young men went to the Middle East. In the post-1990 years, the IT revolution triggered another wave of migration, this time to US and Europe.

A diasporic community for long, Kerala had been a money order economy, depending on the remittances of millions of its young sons and daughters working all over the world. But, very few stories have been told about them. While their remittances help to hold the much celebrated ‘Kerala Model’ aloft, their narratives have not found a place either in the public domain or in the literature or arts. But for a few significant contributions by writers like Benyamin, Babu Bharadwaj and some bloggers, the dreams and frustrations, anxieties and hopes of the migrant Malayalees have not been part of the political imagination or development agenda back home.

Migration, whether it be out of choice or necessity, is a transformative experience. It brings one into contact with the Other – in whose land one has to seek a living, and find a space of one’s own.  These films made by Gulf Malayalees explore and express the dilemmas and struggles, experiences and concerns of Malayalees working in Kuwait.

All these films were made out of passion for cinema and the inner urge to articulate what it means to be a migrant, the experience of physical bodily presence in an alien land, with one’s heart and mind left behind in one’s own homeland.